On Radio, Olbermann Denies 'Catering' to Bush Haters, Laments Pro-Bush Press
Flipping stations on my radio dial on the drive home, I tried WTWP (the new Washington Post Radio outlet in D.C.), and their new afternoon-drive host Bob Kur, formerly of NBC News, invited Keith Olbermann and Howard Kurtz on to discuss Katie Couric's future, between 6:10 and 6:20 PM. It began in a very staid way, as Olbermann said it remains to be seen whether viewers will accept Katie at night, and whether perhaps she could recreate the evening newscast into a new form. He also relayed that Couric's rumored replacement, Meredith Vieira, has a personal connection: His mother and sister have both taught Vieira's children.
It turned much more interesting when the topic shifted to Kurtz's Monday Olbermann profile. When Kur asked Olbermann what he thought of Kurtz's notion he was "catering to an anti-Bush crowd," Olbermann denied it, defining "catering" as "deliberately changing information or perspective" to please viewers. He said his show was the same in 2003 and 2004 as it is now. No disagreement here: it's been a snarky liberal show from the get-go. But that doesn't mean the show isn't a flagrantly anti-Bush show, just that Keith is suggesting it's not a ratings or marketing ploy. It's letting Keith be Keith...
(Please be advised I pulled over and took notes like a print reporter, so quotes are from notes, not our usual taped and transcribed nail-down.)
Olbermann told Kurtz he had no problem with the story, but then said there was one thing he didn't like: the conservative Olbermann critic in the piece, Robert Cox and crew at Olbermann Watch, which he protested is "a site created to mock me." (And Olbermann is a stranger to mockery?) He claimed that when a commenter went after Cox, Cox put up "information of a personal nature" up against him, so "he's not a reliable observer of my work." (Over to you, Robert.)
Then he went into a lecture about how supinely pro-Bush the press has been over the last five years, succumbing to feelings of "patriotic obligation." The press has "stifled itself," and "we do feel we have been taken advantage of" -- he wouldn't call it a "muzzling," merely "self-editing." He lamented how the media had to "get into the ring with power with one hand tied behind our backs."
Olbermann then made a show out of declaring that when he returned to MSNBC in 2003, his "first thing out of the box" was to attack John Kerry for charging that America needed a "regime change" like Iraq, saying he felt that sounded like a call for "violent overthrow," and the metaphor was "inappopriate to American government." (You can find the Bush-haters at BuzzFlash complaining about Keith that April here. This was at a time when hot war in Baghdad would shortly end up in the toppling of Saddam's statue.) I believe it's fair to say Olbermann wasn't in the habit of whacking Kerry over the next two years.